Keep Your Friends Close… How the Competition Can Help Your Marketing

Shaking handsThink of your competitors as teachers, and your marketing will go far.

Marketers these days need any edge they can get.

With how fast inbound marketing is evolving, it stands to reason that different businesses will find success with different strategies. There’s no perfect solution that will fit everyone. As such, different businesses will inevitably travel down different paths on their marketing journeys than you and your business may have considered. Understanding these differing strategies can give your brand the edge it needs to stand out.

Aside from helping you improve your own strategy, knowing what the competition is up to will help your efforts stand out from the crowd.

Learning From the Competition

Our competitors have plenty to teach us. Any business hoping to gain an edge should review its competitors’ strategies to see where they’re excelling and what takeaways it can use in its own business.

We recommend you approach this process in several stages.

Competitor Identification

Who are your leading competitors? Are you a strictly online business that competes against other ecommerce sites in the digital sphere? Or are you a brick-and-mortar business competing with local shops?

You likely have some idea of this already, but do yourself a favor and use the online tools at your disposal to get some hard data. Use tools like Google Trends and Alexa to get an idea of how your Google Page Rank measures up against others in your industry. Research has found that the number one spot in Google’s organic search results gets 33 percent of total search traffic. Online tracking tools will help you identify which brands are the king of the hill (read: which brands you should keep an eye on).

Plus, you can customize these tools to provide awesome insight into user behaviors, such as tracking how long users spend on the page. Use this data to inform your own business strategy and try to grab some of those benefits for yourself.

Layout Comparison

After identifying a few target competitors, dig through their websites and see how their pages are laid out. You’ll likely notice commonalities among sites concerning web design best practices, navigation, and the like, but what you’re really looking for are the differences.

Consider two high-ranking page results for online coffee retailers: vs.

While both sites look great, their home pages feature some key differences in how they appeal to their audiences.

Driven Coffee uses video content, clickable images, and an “infinite” scrolling homepage to showcase its products. This site offers plenty of information alongside its content layout to give users a strong first impression of the brand.

Coffeekind takes another approach, featuring an uncluttered design and pop-up navigational windows that seems to prioritize simplicity and elegance. For a luxury industry like gourmet coffee sales, this type of refinement clearly resonates well with its target market.

Which one does the job better is a matter of opinion. The point is, both retailers have found different paths that lead to the same goal. Take note of these strategies within your competitors’ sites and make sure that your page measures up. You may find that your competitor has found a way to show off his/her product line in ways that you hadn’t considered. While the minutiae of site design may not seem important, small stones can create big ripples in the competitive world of ecommerce.

Surveying Social

Of course, website analysis isn’t the only way to learn about your competition. Yes, your competition’s home base should be the foundation of your comparison, but you mustn’t forget about all the great data you can find through social media.

Look at your competitor’s social channels. What are people saying? Are they interacting with the brand? Is the brand itself effectively leveraging their social platform to engage its consumers and build customer relationships? While most savvy brands understand the importance of social media these days, not all businesses actually take the time to do it. To wit, only 20 Fortune 500 companies actively engage their users on Facebook.

If your primary competitors are lagging on social, expanding your social media involvement is an easy way to gain an edge. Social media has proven itself as a force to be reckoned with for lead generation and customer retention; outdoing your competition by expanding your social media marketing services is a goal that should be well within your reach.

Peek, but Don’t Stare

Keeping an eye on your competition can provide great insight into new ways to handle your marketing. However, don’t get caught up with analyzing every move they make. Often, your competitors are winging it, just as you might be when testing out new ideas. It’s not about copying what they do verbatim—it’s about gaining more information about what works, what doesn’t, and how you can refine your marketing strategy across the board.

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